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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 September 2012
Compared to every other Railway Atlas in my collection, this is by far the most useful and relevant in the modern day. For the first time ever, the left-hand page gives you the railway mapping as it existed in 1923, and facing on the right-hand page the modern 2012 railway map equivalent.

The 2012 maps use a standardised colour key to clearly identify current railway lines, closed/dismantled lines, heritage railways, walkway/cycle paths, roads realigned onto track-bed, lines in existence but mothballed for possible future reinstatement... even stations on closed lines which remain in use as perhaps a museum, tourist centre, shop or bed-and-breakfast (private houses excepted). It's a terrific insight into how the railway has been transformed since 1923, largely post-Beeching. Importantly, this "Then and Now" Atlas clearly illustrates at a glance what still exists and what doesn't.

Whilst the 1923 maps are re-drawn and based on (amended from) Ian Allan's "British Railways Pre-Grouping Atlas and Gazetteer", the maps here don't convey which lines were operated by each of the "Big Four" railway companies created at that time... but the maps do highlight the freight-only branches, and engine sheds and works as of 1948. In addition to the current railway network, heritage railways and cycle-paths/walkways, the 2012 maps also include current freight-only branches, motive power depots, broad, narrow and miniature gauge lines, tramways, track-beds now roadways, railway/heritage centres & other relevant places of interest - even proposed extensions to heritage lines. All pages include a key to specific points of interest (even usefully including web-addresses of heritage line sites), and most often a photo of interest relevant to the map in question too. There are 45 maps from each period, giving 90 paired maps in all. There's also an index to Station Names for both the 1923 and 2012 maps included at the rear of the Atlas.

Next to the brilliance of Colonel M Cobb's fascinating masterpiece The Railways of Great Britain - A Historical Atlas which shows in superb detail the rise and fall of the railway network between 1807 and 1994, this Atlas is in my view an equally inspired if intentionally less complicated work: Whilst it omits the depth of historical information and Ordnance Survey detail of Cobbs work, this "Then and Now" Atlas usefully gives a snap-shot comparison view: It puts into modern context the current railway network against the old of 1923, with the remnants of that dismantled or re-used since highlighted in an easily digestible colour-coded and well-notated form. For that, this Railway Atlas is without doubt my favourite, and as a keen cyclist of old railway lines and Heritage Railway visitor, it's certainly the most useful in my collection.

As a first-edition, some errors will likely become evident over time, but nevertheless it's a well thought out and beautifully executed Atlas that serves its intended purpose brilliantly. Highly recommended.
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on 9 October 2012
This really is an inspired idea - why didn't I think of it first? The book does precisely what it sets out to do, presenting on each left-hand page a picture of a section of the British railway system on 1 January 1923 - the day on which almost all the remaining independent railways were assimilated into the `Big Four' - the Great Western, Southern, London Midland & Scottish and London and North Eastern Railways. On the opposite right-hand page, the same area is shown as at 1 January 2012.

Great Britain is covered by 38 pairs of pages at a scale of 8 miles to the inch; several of these incorporate inserts showing major rail centres at a larger scale. At the end of this main section, a further seven paired maps at larger scales depict Greater London (East and West). Derby & Nottingham, West Yorkshire, South Wales, Glasgow and Liverpool & Manchester.

The 1923 maps identify the national network, separately identifying freight only lines. Also identified are narrow gauge and miniature passenger-carrying lines and significant standard gauge lines closed to all traffic before 1923. Slightly anachronistically, railway works and motive power depots are shown as at 1 January 1948, together with steam depots opened by BR after that date.

The 2012 maps show all of the above lines, together with lines opened subsequently. The current national network is identified, and the remainder of the lines are colour-coded to show what is happening on the trackbed today. Apart from lines closed to all traffic, the maps identify lines absorbed by London Underground or by other light rail, metro or tramway services, lines currently mothballed, preserved lines, former standard gauge lines re-laid as narrow gauge or miniature railways and other commercial or preserved railways of non-standard gauge. There's quite a bit more detail, including identification of trackbed officially designated as bridleways, cycleways or footpaths, and even sections of trackbed now absorbed into the road network.

So, with so much useful information presented in an accessible and comparative form, what's the downside? Well, in essence, it's the basic design. No doubt the maps were created at a significantly larger size than the versions ultimately printed, and it seems that little thought has been given to how the finished product would appear at the interface with the reader. It may well be that the fault lies with the publisher rather than the compilers; in recent times the Ian Allan group has acquired something of a reputation for poor design and production, though in this case the production standard (print clarity, paper quality, binding, etc) is pretty good.

Essentially, we humans, even if blessed with 20/20 vision, are imperfect scanners. Most of us have no problem in distinguishing colour if we see it in blocks - even fairly small blocks - but as the shape tends towards an almost one-dimensional line it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish colour accurately. The darker the colour, the harder the identification becomes - to many people, thin lines of black, dark maroon, dark blue and dark green are virtually identical. So, to simplify a complex principle, if colour coding is to work successfully the lines need to be thick enough, the colours chosen should contrast as much as possible and in general lighter shades are to be preferred. In addition, the ultimate print colours need to be very carefully matched to the original graphics.

This problem is most serious in relation to the 2012 maps, because they utilise so many colours. One reviewer observes that his main interest in the book would be to compare the national networks then and now. Both maps show these lines in black, but there are so many other dark colours on the later map that the network fails to stand out. If the other colours covered a wider range - bright orange, turquoise and chestnut brown spring to mind as colours not used - and were lighter in tone, this problem would be solved, especially if the line thickness were increased by at least 50%.

The red shades are a particular cause of confusion. The line from Sheringham to Holt, in Norfolk, is a heritage line. For about a mile-and-a-half beyond Holt Station, the trackbed was used to construct the Holt by-pass (A148). On the relevant 2012 map (18A) it is to all intents and purposes impossible to distinguish between the colours used to represent these different uses. The same map is also used for the lower half of the front cover, and again the colours are indistinguishable - though they are significantly different from the colours inside the book! Another example of confusion is in the key to the maps. The 2012 key has separate entries for national network stations, seasonal/workmen's/restricted access stations and stations with no service as at 1 January 2012, but even with the aid of a magnifying glass I'm unable to discern any difference between them.

On a different topic, another reviewer mentions the small print size. I agree, though I accept that a larger size, or a less condensed typeface, would inevitably cause difficulties in congested areas of mapping. Anyone with 20/20 vision will be able to read station names, etc, without any real difficulty - but then, many of those likely to wish to buy a book of this kind may not enjoy perfect vision. Increasing the basic scale from 8 to 7 miles per inch would add (if my arithmetic is correct!) about an extra 12 paired pages, and would thus raise the recommended retail price by two or three pounds, but the increase would result in a much more easily legible product. Certainly there is room for different opinions, but my personal view is that the added clarity would be worth the extra cost.

Finally, this is a first edition, and as such inevitably contains its share of errors. So far as I can see, most - perhaps all - of these are procedural rather than technical. For example, the `legend' (key) to Map 28 runs from item D to item L, whereas the map itself shows items A to I. Presumably this results from a late change to the precise area covered by the map; the items in both cases are in the same order, so the only residual error is in mis-spelling `Seaton' as `Sneaton' in the reference to the Seaton Snook freight only branch. The inhabitants of Wyke Regis in Dorset, just above the throat of the Isle of Portland, will no doubt be concerned to find that their hometown was apparently overwhelmed by the sea between 1923 and 2012 but this, too, is merely a procedural error. Such mistakes, especially in a book of this kind, are unavoidable. There is probably no field of human endeavour in which Murphy's Law holds true more consistently than in the task of editing! If you buy the book and find other errors, please drop a line to the publisher so that corrections can be made in future editions.

And future editions there will surely be, because this book has huge potential among railway enthusiasts, and updates will be demanded as the picture changes. The compilers certainly deserve five stars for their efforts, but the final product is seriously impaired by the weaknesses in production to which I have referred and for which I have tried to suggest possible solutions. Even so, the book as produced will fill a gap in more than a few railway libraries - buy it, check it, contribute your corrections and opinions and let's all look forward to a superb second edition!
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on 19 November 2012
As an avid explorer and walker of closed lines, this is the atlas I have been waiting for! The compilers are to be congratulated for the prodigious amount of research poured in to produce this product. There is considerable additional information on each page under 'legend' such as "Heathfield. Former booking office now a shop and cafe."

However, there are issues. Another reviewer has already explained in detail the problem of the complex colour coding. For example it is almost impossible to distinguish between 'trackbeds now roads' and 'preserved lines'. There are several examples where these are contiguous such as Totnes to Ashburton, and Sheringham to Holt. Hopefully this will be addressed before the next edition.
It is unclear why 1923 has been chosen for the 'then' maps as some lines had still to be built. Thus, for example, the long closed Torrington to Halwill is shown on the 2012 map but not 1923! Also, the 1923 mapping duplicates the separately available 'Pre-Grouping Atlas'.

Given that the 2012 mapping shows all lines 'then' and 'now', it might have been more interesting and shocking to compare this alongside maps showing the much reduced network in service in 2012. Better still, why not just provide the one set of maps and expand these to a larger scale making them much more readable?

Nevertheless, the atlas is a good first attempt and recommended for anyone intrigued by or wanting to explore the rich legacy of railway infrastructure in this country.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 November 2012
A very good and useful book giving maps on opposite pages that cross reference the railway as it was on 1st of January 1923 with the railway as of 1st of January 2012, all with clearly laid out details. The maps of 2012 also give information to the reader about any infrastructure remaining from closed railways, and if the former railway is now a heritage line or a footpath/cycle way. Each use is colour coded and there is also a keyed reference on the page as to the outcome of the closed lines. I have one minor quibble, three shades of red are used and due to age, sometimes find it difficult to diffentiate at times. That said I find the book well worth buying and extremely useful and interesting. Obviously a labour of love by the two authors, and well done to them for completing what must have been a mammoth task. A very good buy.
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on 30 October 2015
I held off on buying the first edition because of the size of the maps. But the second edition (purchased) is much improved and can be recommended for those interested in what has happened to lines since closure etc.
The maps are larger (the majority of previous footnotes are now in an appendix), therefore easier to read and can be compared to other rail map books.
If a gripe is required, it would be some of the colours of the differing present day uses can be difficult to distinguish and require concentration (not always a bad thing).
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on 26 October 2012
A useful addition to the range of UK rail atlases. Ideally you would need a copy the Pre Grouping Atlas [[ASIN:B0092ZPBIK British Railways Pre-Grouping Atlas And Gazateer]as well as it doesn't show which rail company a particular line belongs to but it does give a very clear 'then & now' picture of UKs railways. I could only find one small error, Wolverton Works is not shown on the 'now' map but is still very much functioning.
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on 11 October 2012
This is probably my fourth or fifth Railway Atlas - the others include Jowett (produced from laboriously hand-drawn/written and very detailed Biro/coloured pen originals) and Wignall (covering 1830-1981 now a bit out-of date. I find this Smith and Turner Atlas just right on the level of detail (mapping colours, line status and legends) supplemented with World Wide Web addresses so that any current activity can be researched further. Not wishing to detract from the superb value of this new volume I feel it might be useful to add that in order to "put lines into accurate geographical context" I keep firm hold of my 1960-62 vintage Readers Digest/AA Motoring Road Atlas which clearly locates most pre-Beeching lines near their (then) road pattern.
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on 4 November 2012
Slightly disappointed with this because of the small typeface used on the maps - making the maps very hard to read. There are wide margins on each page - why not use this space to make the maps slighly bigger? The concept is good, however, and overall it is a useful book.
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on 12 January 2013
Having read several very good and not so good reviews regarding this publication I decided to purchase it. I'm very pleased that I did. Although the maps are not as big as they could be the information is first class. I did not find the colours on the 2012 maps confusing as some reviewers have reported but you do have to really study each map to appreciate the amount of information contained. If I was to try to find a complaint it would have to be that unlike a road atlas the maps do not overlap. So if you are trying to follow a particular route it can sometimes be confusing working out which railway line is which on the 1923 maps. Due to all the line closures there's no such problem in the 2012 maps of course.

It's a book you'll pick up time and time again rather than just read and file in a bookcase. All in all a first class publication and if you've any interest in what railways Britain had 90 years ago compared to now, well worth the money.
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on 27 August 2015
It's not long since the first edition came out but, even so, much has been to improve content and presentation for those like me obsessed with railway archaeology and admiration for those Victorian generations who got things done, albeit at heavy human cost.
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